Reactions » Rembrandt, “Return of the Prodigal Son”

Rembrandt.The Prodigal Son

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), “Return of the Prodigal Son” 1666, Oil on Canvas

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9 thoughts on “Reactions » Rembrandt, “Return of the Prodigal Son”

  1. I appreciate Rembrandt’s accenting the son with one shoe on and one shoe off – indicates how hurried the son must have been to rush to the father, which also indicates that the father must have had his arms open from a fair distance for the shoe to come flying off!

  2. I love this painting by the way – it has been one of my favorites for a long time now. What sticks out to me is the background figures, which seems to frame the action as a true “spectacle.” The stares from every direction highlights, in my mind, the humility of both parties – one reaching out to grasp and the other grasping – such that it is sight for all to behold.

  3. I keep asking myself, “Which one will I be?” Will I be the one in the distance (at left) peeking in on the scene but safely removed from the emotions of the drama and the implications it may have for me, the one closer in but shielded by the wall (able to duck behind it if I get too uncomfortable), the other leaning in but sitting indifferently with legs crossed casualy and arms folded, the older brother looking down on the scene disapprovingly, or will I be the unkept prodigal in his desparate embracing after all?

  4. I am becoming increasingly interested in artistic depictions of scripture as well as theology. Unlike popular Christian art today, the turmoiled life of a genius stands before us. The painting gives me a window into a soil that is struggling to understand the human condition, the view of culture (with its stress on societal rules), as well as the grace of our Father. At any moment when I return to this painting I identify with a different character or theme. At this moment, I am drawn by the use of light to the faces of both the Father and older son. The theme that is hitting me is reputation. In Rembrandts world a good reputation was weight in gold. In this painting the reputation of all three principle characters is in view: The older son: protecting his hard-earned reputation as the consistent obedient son who frowns upon those who squander and live frivolous impious lives; the younger son: broken from a life of poor choices and scandal who returns to simply be a slave in his father’s house; the Father: willing to put his reputation on the line and to risk a public scandal in a public display of forgiveness, acceptance, and restoration (if you notice he isn’t wearing his ring – one has to assume that he has given it to his son).

    As Kent has mentioned, which one am I? Would I be willing to risk my reputation in my church, community, and family to lavish love, forgiveness, acceptance, and restoration on one who is underserving?

    I would recommend the book by Henri Nowen titled The Return of the Prodigal for any of those who are touched by the power of Rembrandt.

  5. well, i have read the bible and luke 15 and i think that the prodigalson is that person who had sin againt God and retur to ask for forgive of his sin. the picture of the son with the shoes off it mean that he dosent have the word of God that is the bible so he can not can walk straid

  6. Who are the other characters in this painting?

    Do we know what was on the artists mind for each of the ‘five’?

    Has it always been left up to the observer to interpret this for themselves/ourselves?

    What do the art history experts have to suggest about this especially from the historical context of the artist’s own time and culture and understanding?

    Please respond if you are able. Share your sources of info for your comments, opinions or [facts?]. Share your real credentiality as well please.

  7. Years later. I have just started to read Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son and arrived here through background research.

    I am intrigued by the queries here of: Who am I in this painting? And made an interesting observation. The two figures in the background are not looking at the father and son, but gaze out directly at a “sixth” person. The viewer…Rembrandt…?

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